Many authors use the world of Literature as a tool to depict various events that bedevil our contemporary society. It is through literature that many wise authors have managed to educate the world and reflect on the activities that have taken prominence in the modern world albeit in a disguised manner. Nathaniel Hawthorne and Flannery O’Connor in their stories "Young Goodman Brown" and "A good man is hard to find" respectively manage to portray in a clinical manner, the relevant themes of evil that have taken toll on the world as it is today, much to the objection of the faithful population.
In the case of "Young Goodman Brown", for instance, Hawthorne manages to craft the true and very symbolic picture that uncovers effects of evil activities amongst the seemingly righteous people. The story is set in Salem, Massachusetts. Young man Goodman Brown departs from home and leaves behind his newly wedded wife Faith for an unknown mission that is set to occur in the forest. Despite the pleas from his loving wife, Brown insists on completing the job within the requisite schedule.
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During the journey, Goodman gets to meet a stranger, who bears a striking resemblance to him in all ways i.e. this stranger has a similar dress code and has similar body appearances as him. There is however, one interesting thing about the stranger that he has in his possession - a black, serpent-shaped staff. The stranger tries to give it to Brown, to ease his weariness, however Brown declines this proposition. While being in the woods, the two meet lady whose name is Mistress Cloyse and she seems to have issues with walking. Nevertheless, she is rather friendly with the stranger. Later on Brown and his companion offer Mistress Cloyse the staff and as soon as she takes it, she flies away to an unknown destination. On the way Goodman meets other travelers that probably head to the same direction as he does, since the wood is close to the town and many people consider it to be their home.
The apparent twist of the story comes when Brown hears the voice of his wife and quickly calls out to her. His efforts are however, thwarted when he fails to get a response. Out of curiosity to find the source of the voice, Brown uses a maple staff that is fashioned by the stranger to fly through the forest into a clearing. There, he finds all the towns-people assembled. The gathering seems to be waiting for an initiation ceremony, which is supposed to be carried out on the two new converts, who are apparently Brown and his wife Faith. It becomes obvious that only Brown and faith did not participate in the rite of passage.
On the mention of heaven’s intervention however, the scene disappears instantly but the pictures remain attached on Brown’s troubled mind. Upon arrival at his home in Salem the following morning, Brown is full of doubt whether to believe or discard the events of the previous night. It however, turns out that the effects of those scenes were so great that Brown’s faith in the Christian community, one of which he was part, fades away. Even worse outcome of that night is the unhealthy distrust to his wife. All these factors influence Brown, make him miserable leading to live a bitter and suspicious life.
The second story we will discuss is "A good man is hard to find" by O’Connor where he manages to create a profile of a serial killer Misfit. The short story is about a family of six that are planning to go on a vacation but two major proponents (the grandmother and the father) are embroiled in a battle of words that regards the destination. While all the grandmother’s arguments are turned in favor of Tennessee, the father is rooted for Florida. The grandmother tried to put her best foot forward to show the objection and stating many reasons, nevertheless the father and the children (who joined the discussion) maintained their ground as concerned Florida. The grandmother was clearly upset and the reason was her fear to meet Misfit who was walking freely in the streets. Newspapers reported his possible location in the direction of Florida, a place the family was giving its all to go to. Overwhelmed by their suggestions, the grandmother decided to join them albeit she reserved all her doubts and fears.
O’Connor manages to employ a vivid description technique in detailing about the course of the journey. The specific highlights included stop at the barbeque shop and the accident. The grandmother is described as the loud mouthed type who snaps at any chance to talk. One can notice these features of her during the conversation with the attendant at the barbeque shop and Misfit after the accident. The story however, ends tragically when the whole family is brutally murdered by Misfit and his accomplices. O’Connor attempts to picture evil person with help of Misfit’s character. Reader can clearly see evil in the way killer orchestrated the murder of the entire family.
The principal characters in these two stories are Brown and Misfit. In the case of Goodman Brown, author creates the picture of a faithful man whose faith took a wrong turn, after the terrible experience at the hand of a stranger who turns out to be the evil master. The stranger in this case is Satan and the author in a very professional way unfolds his evil sides. This is evident in the way he tries to act nicely with the travelers offering his staff as a form of relief to any tired persons. These intentions are very treacherous and have far reaching consequences as it is seen in the case of Goodman Brown.
Misfit however gained his evil character much earlier, from the father’s teachings that he received as well as from the lessons he got while being in custody. His knowledge of the good book makes it even harder for the desperate grandmother to convince him that he is a good man with a good heart and should not kill. Both stories have a footing in the family set up (though of distinct sizes). For instance, in Brown’s situation the family is abandoned and solitude creeps into his life, while in the second scenario, the family of Bailey suffers together because of the mutual decision and all the experiences are shared among them. The description of evil nature in both stories is seen through the principal characters that develop counter ideas to the conventions well known to them. Ideally, it is a representation of how the devil reaches out to the people. In both cases, evil masters only tend to appear when the victims are in dire need of help. Just in the well documented cases, the faith of an individual is best tested in the situation of need. After their accident, the Bailey family needed help and when Misfit appears their problems seem to be solved.
However, their supposed savior turns out to be devil in human form that ends up murdering all of them in cold blood. In Brown’s case, the devil uses the voice of Faith as bait to lure Brown to accept his evil staff that only leads into a predicament. It is however, important to note that the actions of the evil doers are induced and driven by experiences. Goodman’s situation is a perfect example of doubt triumphing over faith. Brown’s beliefs are altered in short span and the consequences are greater than Brown himself can possibly imagine. The stranger manages to convince him to use the staff that takes him to the needed destination. The results of his short trip are as traumatizing as they are shocking, what consequently re-shapes the life of Brown. In the case of Misfit, the teachings administered to him by his father act as the catalyst to his evil actions. (Feldman 68)
Apart from the dominating topic of evil, both stories include many other philosophical and didactic moments. First, it is always good and wise to heed to the advice of our seniors, since they always have the best intent in the heart, especially with parents involved. If Bailey listened to his mother, her logics and all the suggestions brought forward by her, the tragedy would not have occurred. Secondly, it is always a must-do-thing for an individual to trust their instincts. Brown should have taken time to analyze the authenticity of the incidences he had gone through before deciding to seek alternative solutions. As we understand from the story, the price he paid for his rash behavior was a miserable life. In general both authors tend to share the idea that the world is heading for the worst. The children in the case of Bailey’s family represent fully the generation that characterizes the contemporary society. We should all be on the lookout because the opportunities that open up to us in our times of need might as well hold the keys to our complete failure or simply doom.